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The New Zealand police recently added a hijab to the uniform for the first time. From now on, officers can choose between a uniform with or without a headscarf. And the first variant is already in use …
New Zealand police add hijab to uniform
Thirty-year-old Zeena Ali is the first police officer to choose a uniform with a headscarf. And she is very happy with it, as we can see on the Instagram page of the New Zealand police. “It feels great that the hijab is part of my uniform, they also involved me in the design phase of it,” said Ali.
Ali, who was born in Fiji and moved to New Zealand as a child, was motivated to join the police after the devastating attack in Christchurch. “I realized that we needed more Muslim women in the police force.”
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She sees the hijab as an opportunity for other Muslim women. “It is fantastic that the police take my religion and culture into account. (…) This uniform means that women who previously might never have considered a career in the police force can now do so.”
Besides adjusting the uniform, the police have also adapted other areas. During her training, Ali had access to Halal meals and could swim in long-sleeved clothing.
Discussion over the Hijab in the Netherlands
In recent years, the discussion in The Netherlands is growing. Should police officers be allowed to wear a headscarf? Proponents say that freedom of religion is important, and a headscarf does not detract from the neutral appearance that this function requires. On the other side, the opponents think that a headscarf stands in the way of neutrality.
In 2017, it was widely reported in the Dutch news. The head of the Amsterdam police hinted that they were considering allowing the wearing of a headscarf in the workplace. This went against the policy that had banned this for years. An internal investigation by the police at the time showed that 90% of the police officers were against the wearing of a headscarf at work.
In November 2017, the Institute of Human Rights considered this question. A female police officer filed a complaint. At work she could wear her hijab when wearing her regular clothing, but not with her uniform. The institute indicated that the combination of uniform and hijab should not simply be banned. That would be discrimination.
But because this statement is not binding, it is really just advice. And although the police stated that they take the judgment “very seriously”, the policy was not changed.
It is and will remain a grey area. In addition to the aforementioned arguments, also remember that an employer may apply dress codes. And they can also demand neutrality. For example, a judge may not wear a headscarf, but an employee in a store may.
Finally, you also have to consider the (political) culture in the country. For example, the French government continues to expand the ban, but despite that, political parties continue to discuss it. And I don’t think that will stop anytime soon. Except in New Zealand, where the police seem to have ended the discussion for once and for all by introducing the hijab.